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Abortion in Northern Ireland 2013

Policy Briefing - Abortion in Northern Ireland

The issue

The law in Northern Ireland strongly protects the life of the mother and unborn child. This is something to be deeply thankful for and to be celebrated.

There are no proposals to change the law here at the moment. However, abortion has been the subject of much media attention and heated political discussion recently. The tragic case of Savita Halappanavar, which resulted in a coroner's court finding of medical misadventure, has sparked calls to reform abortion law in the Republic of Ireland. More locally, a Marie Stopes Clinic opened in Belfast in October 2012 and a move to restrict abortions to the health service here was defeated in March 2013. These developments have heightened tension and sharpened focus on our laws.

Abortion law in Northern Ireland is governed by the Offences against the Person Act 1861 and the Criminal Justice Act 1945. The 1967 Abortion Act of England and Wales was never extended here. However, in the rest of the UK it has created a situation of de facto abortion on demand. Seven million abortions have been carried out since the Act came into force (equivalent to the entire population of Scotland and Northern Ireland combined) and currently for every four children born, one is aborted.

It is against this backdrop that a consultation on guidance for healthcare professionals on the limited circumstances for the lawful termination of pregnancy has just been issued in Northern Ireland. The consultation runs until 29 July 2013. Again it is important to stress that there has been no change in the law. However this consultation is significant and creating clear guidance is essential. As can be seen in England and Wales, without careful interpretation and application of the law, a practice of abortion on demand can develop which is difficult to reverse.

What we're doing

We believe in the sanctity of life, that God is the creator of life from conception and it is never to be ended at our convenience.We are members of the All Party Pro-Life Group at Stormont and are committed to protecting the robust and balanced laws we have in Northern Ireland. We will respond to this consultation and continue to propose policies on regulation, sex and relationships education and crisis pregnancy care. We are also intentional about shifting the public discourse on abortion from reproductive rights towards the broader Christian narrative of right relationships and responsibility.

What you can do

- Pray: For wisdom for policy makers and medical practitioners working on the guidance.
- Help us to shape our views: Contact us if you have particular expertise or experience.
- Respond: Read the guidelines on the DHSSPSNI website and respond by sending a short polite email to familypolicyunit@dhsspsni.gov.uk, or write to your local MLA about this issue.

For more than 160 years the Evangelical Alliance has been centred around Christian unity and advocacy. We have a credible heritage of influencing public policy for the benefit of all in society. The Evangelical Alliance has been working in Northern Ireland for the past 25 years. Peter Lynas is the director of EANI and David Smyth is public policy officer.

To discuss further please contact:

d.smyth@eauk.org